Mouse Create Technical Infrastructure

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About Create

Mouse Create is the online learning platform designed by Mouse, a New York City-based national nonprofit youth development organization for young people to build the skills they need to apply design and technology creatively to the world around them. Projects and courses help educators build an environment for learners to explore, deepen, and practice creative and technical identities over time. Educators from schools, community centers, and afterschool providers partner with Mouse to integrate Mouse project curriculum into their programs and classes, choosing from courses that cover circuitry, game design, web literacy, coding, green technology, and more.

Released in the fall of 2016, the Create platform followed previous badge implementation efforts by Mouse through a former platform, mousesquad.org. Efforts to design badge-supported learning began for Mouse with its first implementation in 2010 to support its national “Mouse Squad” program. Another of Mouse’s programs, Design League, an advanced design and technology program for high school youth, began badging competencies across its program year in 2013, experimenting with Achievery’s free product (now defunct) for badge issuing. The third-party solution helped Mouse to issue credentials while students used other free, third-party software (WordPress) for capturing work portfolios. A year later, when Achievery was dissolved, Mouse entered a third-party relationship with Credly. When Mouse launched Create, a new digital platform for youth and educators, developers at Minds On Design Lab, Inc. worked with Credly.com to integrate the Credly application programming interface (API).

Third-party API

Mouse’s Create platform incorporates a third-party API offered by Credly.com. According to Credly’s website, Credly “is the end-to-end solution for creating, issuing and managing digital credentials.”

Timing for Mouse’s Create platform launch incorporated collaboration to include Credly API as the platform’s badge-issuing engine. This was a strategic move for Mouse insofar as

  • Mouse wanted to support third-party issuing as a means of building an ecosystem for earning and issuing badges that it could not support through its own limited Web development resources, and
  • third-party issuing ensured that badges earned through Mouse’s learning experiences were transferrable, a key philosophical driver of the open badges effort

Portfolio Functionality

How does it work?

Along with an accompanying “Digital Portfolios” course, Mouse added a “My Work” feature within the profile area that allows users to curate, categorize, and export the work created and stored on Mouse Create into a zip file for saving anywhere. This feature encourages students to evaluate their learning and to organize their submitted work into custom categories like “for my college applications,” “electronics projects,” or “for my Web design portfolio.” Here’s how it works.

Students navigate to the “My Work” feature within their profile.

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Students create custom categories to organize their best work into exportable folders.

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Students select project work to add to their custom categories. Here’s an example of student-submitted work on Mouse Create. This was submitted by a team of four students as evidence for their work on a project called “Iterations & Feedback” within Mouse’s “Design with Purpose” course.

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Then, students select the “Manage” tab to organize work into one or more custom categories.

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After adding work to the category, students can export it.

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Work is exported as a .ZIP file, with each asset (images, text, attachments) stored as a separate file with a naming convention that includes the project name and the user name.

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How student work is associated with a badge:

Educators on Mouse Create build a playlist of projects and courses for their group. Many projects are associated with digital badges.

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Students who have connected a Credly account to their Mouse Create profile are eligible to earn digital badges by submitting each required project associated with the badge. Their Mouse Create educator reviews submitted work through the platform, leaving feedback in the discussion area within each work submission.

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After all work required for the badge is marked as reviewed, educators can award the badge. The badge immediately appears on the student’s Mouse Create profile.

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At the same time, Credly sends an email to the student to accept the badge on their platform for sharing publicly on social networks or college applications. Here’s a student’s profile on Credly.com, including several Mouse badges.

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Mouse badges on Credly include a unique evidence URL generated by Mouse Create that displays the submitted work from each project associated with the student’s badge.

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Key Decisions on Interface and Usability

Export functionality

Instead of developing our own student digital portfolio creation feature housed within the Mouse Create platform, we decided to design a tool that helps students export and save their work. With the “My Work” export feature, students can document, organize, and store their Mouse work on their devices or on a platform they are more likely to use long-term.  

Youth using third-party platforms

Because students may create portfolio-worthy work in their classrooms, in afterschool programs and clubs, at internships, and at home, our Digital Portfolio course encourages students to use third-party tools, such as Google Drive, WordPress, or Tumblr, to build a digital portfolio that combines their exported Mouse work with their work from other programs.